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Balancing the Grind with Mariya Hristova, Head of Talent at Hofy

Mariya Hristova is the Head of Talent at Hofy, a UK-based start-up helping companies to equip remote teams globally.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I started off in agency recruitment working on roles all over the world across many industries from ports and shipping through fashion and creative.

Eventually I went to in-house recruitment directly with a FinTech company and later on at Twitch where I oversaw the rapid growth in 2020 of the EMEA region. Now I am in the world of start-up where I lead the Talent Function at Hofy – an ambitious startup aiming to help companies unlock the potential of global and remote hiring. 

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Just like with any startup no two days look alike. I work from home so I wake up and go for a swim first thing in the morning (although in London in the winter motivation is tough!). I start reviewing emails after I return around 8.30am and review the priorities I’ve set myself from the day before. I tackle those first. 

I try to split my day into chunks and tasks, especially when I have an admin-heavy day. However when it comes to considering strategies and policy it is important to build in some just free thinking time even if it is just 10 mins of going and having a cup of tea or just taking a break physically, going to another room and coming back. It gives your brain a reset and you end up thinking of different ideas and perspectives often.

One thing I have found very useful as well in my line of work is building non-movable blocks and movable blocks of work. That way if something comes up you know you can move a task for the afternoon without stressing and instead you can prioritise the urgent thing that has come up. Build in some slack into your workday – that way you can have the flexibility to change things if need be. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

I am fully remote at the moment and in our company wherever possible we give the option for flexible or remote working. It has changed my routine a fair bit as I had to become more disciplined in myself to not get distracted and to move around more at home. 

Remote working does allow me to utilise my most productive hours the best, although being in Recruitment and HR it is nice to work with others in person. You have to become more intentional and mindful of your interactions and you have to seek out ways of getting your team together more.

I have found that sometimes with the team jumping on a Discord session to work together simulates an office environment well – we can all share our screens at the same time and we only have to be on audio so there is less pressure on everyone. 

(Side benefit: I have never been healthier since I don’t have to use public transport anymore!)

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Work-life balance to me means being able to set aside time for myself and my family and friends. Being able to switch off when it’s needed. It has been tougher to achieve when for example during lockdown you think to yourself “I am not going out anywhere, might as well stay online past 8pm and review some more CVs”.

This has been something I had to really work on and stop myself from doing. Initially I started off by actually scheduling tasks for myself that were not work related after 6pm on my calendar (e.g. clean out the kitchen cupboards or play video games). Yes – I went that far!

Eventually my brain fell into the pattern and learned to think about things other than work and being present in the moment. I really enjoy my work so it is easy to justify that I am doing extra in the evening because I enjoy it, but I know in the end it makes me less productive then if I am to focus in a more concentrated chunk of time. 

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

I definitely had to add extra working out time to my life – intentional working out. Before when I was office-based and could go into an office, I naturally walked everywhere and used to walk easily around 7-8km a day briskly. Not having that anymore meant I had to actually start working out a lot more than normal to make up for it! 

Additionally I had to start planning my meals a bit more. When I started working from home I thought to myself – finally I can start eating more home-cooked meals, but when you are in the middle of the day, lunch comes around and you have just come out of a meeting, cooking all of a sudden becomes just quick omelettes or a sandwich. I had to start thinking about cooking a lot more and plan things in advance. 

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

My most recent find is Atomic Habits  – I know I am quite late to the trend but I still find myself very much in need of extra support to build up the habits I need as I tend to occasionally relapse into old and bad habits.

Additionally my most recent interesting read was the Culture Code aiming to make cross-cultural interactions easier. As an immigrant myself it’s fascinating to take a look at how sometimes my communication style can clash with someone and create more work and hassle for all parties. 

Non-productivity related, I like listening to ancient history podcasts while for example I am cooking, just to give my brain something to relax with so I am not constantly engaged with something to learn and remember. 

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Notion is my go-to for all kinds of organisation, life admin, and tracking. Discord is another one to help me feel a lot more connected and casually plugged into an environment. Gadget-wise, robotic vacuum cleaner. I thought it was the pinnacle of luxury but now I can’t imagine life without it! 

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?  

I’d really want to hear from a working mum who can be totally honest about their issues and struggles to normalise that difficulty to balance with perhaps some more real advice rather than the glorified superwoman we’re all expected to be! 

On the humoristic side of things, I’d like to see how Gary Vaynerchuk does work-life balance if at all!  

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Balance is ever-flowing and shifting, never be upset that you have veered off too much one way or the other for a while and do not mourn the loss of perfect equilibrium because that doesn’t exist.

The way I like to think about it is more with comfort levels and when something feels off – look at what you need to change and never be afraid to ask for help! Don’t let the strife for perfection in either direction get in the way of you actually living your life. 

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About Author

Balance the Grind is a work-life balance publication on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.